NO SUNSHINE IN SPARKS' LOSS AT HOME SACRAMENTO 69, SPARKS 60.
The Sparks' frustration mounted in a way its offense never could Saturday night. It got so bad, DeLisha Milton, who is nicknamed ``Sunshine,'' received consecutive technical fouls in the closing seconds and was ejected.
After all the frustration, the Sparks found themselves stewing in their dressing room with a 69-60 loss to the Sacramento Monarchs in front of 10,102 at Staples Center.
Even though it was just one loss in a 34-game season and even though the Sparks (12-3) still have the league's best record, their dressing room was full of sad faces. The prevailing theme, or excuse, the players offered for their lackluster play was that the three-game trip that finished Tuesday haunted them.
``Some of us are weak with our legs from all the travel,'' Milton said. ``We were shooting up airballs everywhere, or at least I was, and that's just not how we are. We were making their players look like all-stars.''
The Sparks came to life to start the second half. They trailed 24-21 at halftime, but started the second half with energy and poise, taking a 30-28 lead with 17:50 to play.
The Sparks also had the lead at 33-31 with 16:01 left, but their energy and poise didn't last long. Sacramento had the lead the rest of the game and was in control until the end.
No, the Sparks were not blown out by the Monarchs (6-8). They inched their way to 62-58 with 3:13 left, but they never did have a serious chance to win.
After a three-game winning streak on the road, they lost a second consecutive home game, contributing to the ongoing 2003 storyline that the Sparks struggle at home but not on the road.
``At home, we have a lot of distractions,'' Milton said. ``We have friends and family, errands to run. Maybe we have to make it at home like it is on the road with no distractions.''
Tamecka Dixon had 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting for the Sparks. Lisa Leslie added 16 points and seven rebounds, and Milton had 13 points and nine rebounds.
Though Leslie's statistics looked fine, she was outplayed by Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds. Edna Campbell added 11 points for the Monarchs.
``I just think we all felt a little bit tired,'' Leslie said. ``This was not a normal performance for us. It might be just one loss. But we set high standards for ourselves, and we don't like to lose.''
The frustrations were such that Michael Cooper did not address the media after the game. That was a first for the Sparks coach.
Even Dixon, who had a strong night, was upset with the outcome.
``I just tried to give what I have and be aggressive,'' Dixon said. ``But we still lost, so I don't think what you do individually makes a difference when that happens.
--Notes: Mwadi Mabika missed Saturday night's game with a sore right knee. She is considered day to day.
Jennifer Gillom and the Sparks just didn't have it Saturday in a defeat to the Monarchs at Staples Center, where L.A. has lost back-to-back games.
Edna T. Simpson/Daily News